Posted in Executive Insights
, Tips and Tricks
My Mom used to say, “Learn something new everyday.” To which, I would reply irreverently, “…so I’ll be really smart when I die?” And my Mom would simply smile, and say, “yes.”
Be a lifelong learner. I’ve taken Mom’s advice to heart. As Morningstar Communications celebrates our 15th anniversary today, I offer you these 15 lessons learned from building our business.
I hope these words of advice help you through the journey called life.
- “The only things in life you ever truly own are your reputation and your relationships. Everything else is transitory.” This is my foundation quote, and it summarizes my overarching worldview toward building meaningful relationships with the people who matter most. One-to-one relationships drive everything important. Your reputation is your most valuable asset. Guard it and nourish it daily.
- Never p*ss anyone off. It’s WAY too small a world. We reap what we sow. For example, one good friend of our firm has been a competitor, client, colleague, supplier and now… a client again! This doesn’t surprise me anymore. Your reputation proceeds you, every time. Make it work for you, not against you.
- Go through life wearing bifocal glasses (more literally true for some of us!) Keep your eye on the horizon, but watch each step along the way.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Never settle when hiring people. Our five-part employee philosophy has always been:
1 – Hire excellence. Always.
2 – Empower each person.
3 – Be there, when they need help.
4 – Otherwise, stay out of their way.
5 – Sing their praises.
- “None of us is as smart as all of us.” This old Japanese proverb is true for every team on every successful project. Don’t focus on who gets credit. Our Advisory Board and team members have made our firm a thousand times better than we ever could by ourselves.
- Whatever you do well, do more of it. Build on your strengths much more than shoring up your weaknesses. All of us are great at some things; none of us are great at all things. Excellent employees want a job that’s very challenging, but “doable.” Do what you love. Love what you do. And you’ll rarely feel like it’s work.
- Find the balance between what never changes and what must change. Hold on to your bedrock values and principles while always experimenting on the fringes of your core competencies. Knowing what to change, and what to leave alone, is half the battle.
- We all have many roles ingrained in our identity. The phrase, “which ‘hat’ are you wearing should be replaced with the concept of “re-sequencing your headgear.” 24-by-7, I’m a man, husband, father, business owner, entrepreneur, KC Chamber board member, Jayhawk, Jewish, KC sports fan, etc… The better way to think is to determine which role should be dominant at a given moment in time.
- Make sure that you have the right mix of personal, professional and financial rewards in your business life. The ratios will change over time, but be sure you’re aware and happy with your balance.
- Balance optimism and reality. Optimistic thinkers can be too pollyanna. Pessimistic thinkers look through the wrong lens. Realistic thinkers rule. Give people the benefit of the doubt, even if you don’t think they deserve it. Let them prove themselves; don’t pre-judge.
- Past performance is the greatest single indicator of future results. Instead of the disclaimer offered by every financial investment opportunity, I’ve learned that what’s happened before will very likely continue unless you make a conscious effort to change it.
- Winning and losing are part of playing the game. Sometimes we win business we don’t really deserve, and sometimes we lose business we shouldn’t. When things are going great, there will be some bad news. When things are going bad, there will be some good news. This too shall pass.
- When all is said and done, what’s done is all that really matters. Actions, not words, are the only things that really matter. While perception is reality, behavior drives business. You can’t build your reputation on what you’re GOING to do. Just Do It.
- Profit is not a four-letter word. A good, sustainable business makes a reasonable profit. A bad business loses money. Focus on the business of the business daily.
- There’s a lot of common ground (yes, pun intended) between growing flowers and growing a business. Create a fertile environment. Nurture it. Plant seeds. Pull weeds. Prune. Fertilize. Add / invest in the hard structures. Add art. Over time, good things will grow.
I’ll close this post with a bonus tip: when posed with an important business decision I suggest that you consider these three questions first:
- “Is this knock on my door an opportunity, or an interruption?”
- “Is this a decision I should make?”
- “What’s best for our clients, our company, and our colleagues, in that order?”
We’re truly honored to have reached our 15th anniversary. We’re confident and optimistic for the future and we so appreciate your support. Unparalleled thanks to my life and business partner, our COO, Shanny Morgenstern. Incredible appreciation for Sheri, Tricia, Rachel, Suchitra, and the entire team at Morningstar Communications. And a special shout-out to all our alums, who have left an indelible impact on our firm and our clients.
And to our clients, who have trusted us to strengthen and grow your business – thank you.
Onward and upward.
Tagged business lessons
, Eric Morgenstern
, Executive Insights
, Morningstar Communications
, tips and tricks